Nearly 1,400 people have been likely infected with coronavirus while being treated in Kent Acute NHS Trust hospitals for another reason, raising concerns about the NHS’s inability to protect them.
Across all four Kent Acute NHS Trusts at least one in six of all patients found to have the virus, caught it while an inpatient. East Kent Hospital University Foundation Trust had the highest rate of such cases among acute trusts in Kent at 20%, or one in five.
In Medway NHS Foundation Trust slightly more than one in six patients on average found to have the virus, caught it while an inpatient.
Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust nearly one in seven patients on average found to have the virus, caught it while an inpatient.
Dartford & Gravesham NHS Trust nearly one in seven patients on average found to have the virus, caught it while an inpatient.
To put these figures into perspective, across England as a whole one in seven (15%) of all patients treated for the virus between 1 August 2020 and 21 March, caught it while an inpatient. So both EKHUFT and Medway NHS Foundation Trusts exceed this figure.
The data shows that hospital Trusts in Kent estimate a total of 1,397 people probably caught coronavirus while in hospital in their care during that time.
All the Kent Trusts face litigation for the many cases where Covid was acquired within their walls. The Trust facing the most litigation is East Kent Hospitals, follwed by Medway, Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells, then Dartford & Gravesham, according to NHS Resolution.
Lets not forget the data goes up to 2018/19, so add in the remaining claims for 2019/20 and 2020/21 and the claims on NHS trusts in Kent & Medway will exceed £350 million.
Doctors and hospitals claim that many of the infections were caused by the lack of beds and limitations posed by some hospitals being old, cramped and poorly ventilated, as well as health service bosses’ decision that hospitals should keep providing normal care while the second wave of Covid was unfolding, despite the potential danger to those receiving non-Covid care.
The figures are certainly not flattering. What they show is how both patients and NHS staff were profoundly let down by the failure to suppress the virus ahead of and during the second wave, according to a Governor of one the Kent NHS Trusts.
“I am deeply shocked that one in six hospital patients who developed Covid-19 caught the virus while being treated for another illness. The figures you’ve presented to me, published by NHS England, reveals a disturbing disparity, with rates of hospital-acquired Covid in the East & North of the county being almost twice those in the West. It’s clear Kent has a wealth divide and a health divide, something local MP, Cllrs and residents must do something about. ”
NHS England does not publish figures showing how many of those deemed likely to have caught coronavirus as an inpatient later died. But experts in hospital-acquired infection pointed out that many of those being admitted for other reasons – such as an operation or after a fall or flare-up of an existing medical problem – are frail and vulnerable and have underlying poor health, so would be more likely to die if they did get Covid.
“It’s simply not possible to eradicate all the risks of Hospital Acquired Covid, but the questionable drive to continue running parallel Covid and non-Covid care since the summer, definitely heightened the risks,”
said a senior consultant based at EKHUFT.
They went onto say:
“What the public need to be told is the years of systemic understaffing and cost-cutting the NHS has suffered. In real terms we’ve had far fewer beds available to us for a good number of years than our European colleagues. This has made it far harder in our Trust through wave 1 and 2, to separate out cases. This led to a significant increase in the chances of hospital-acquired infection especially in April, May and Nov, Dec & Jan. There is no doubt, people will have caught Covid and died as a result of this carelessness.”
Stopping the spread of coronavirus in hospitals has been a key priority for all Trusts since the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) issued a report last year which criticised the NHS in England’s track record. Recent research by Public Health England found that 15.5% of all cases of Covid among hospitalised patients had either probably or definitely occurred while they were in hospital.
Another Kent NHS Governor made it clear:
“All Trusts in Kent, and England for that matter, went into the Covid pandemic underfunded, understaffed and overstretched. It’s the elephant in the room. With limited bed and workforce capacity controlling the spread of Covid-19 within our hospitals has been made more difficult by these accentuating set of circumstances.”
It’s clear the Covid pandemic exacerbated other significant issues within the NHS, which amplified the issue of Hospital Acquired Covid.
We make it very clear we are NOT SAYING those in any Trust, be it in Kent, or elsewhere, have deliberately, maliciously or malevolently been careless. The whole healthcare profession has been desperately trying to bring these extremely difficult circumstances under control as fast as possible.
We thank all NHS Staff for what they’ve done throughout this pandemic. We send our condolences to all 5,000 plus Kent & Medway families who’ve lost a loved one to Covid, whether that be Hospital Acquired Covid, or acquired in the community.
The Shepway Vox Team
Thanks to ALL those who’ve made a difference during this pandemic